Bhubaneswar, Dec 18: The Other Traditional Forest Dwellers(OTFDs) of the State organised two-days Lok Sammelani on 16th and 17th Dec at Lower PMG, Bhubaneswar demanding recognition of their Forest rights.
More than 500 OTFDs coming from different districts like Kandhamal, Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagarda, Bargarh, Bolangir, Nuapada, Ganjam, Puri and Mayurbhanj participated in the two days Lok Sammelani and demanded recognition of individual forest rights in the State.
It is to be noted that historic Forest Rights Act,(FRA) 2006 was enacted by Parliament after the 60 years of India’s independence. In its preamble Govt. of India for the first time admitted to have done historical injustice with the tribal and forest dwellers. This Act is the result of long struggle of both the Adivasis(ST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) depending upon the forest for their basic livelihood needs.
Of course, when the act was first placed in the Parliament in 2005, it was only for the tribals but the final Act passed in Dec 2006 included the OTFDs after the recommendation of Joint Parliamentary Committee. The Act provides that any tribal or OTFD occupying forest land prior to 13th Dec 2005 is eligible to get both individual and community rights over forest land and forest. However, it provided that OTFDs have to produce evidence(as prescribed under Section 13 of the forest rights rules, 2007) of living in the village or in the area for three generations calculating each generation as 25 years.
Thus FRA is very clear in respect of providing forest rights to both STs and OTFDs and is also seen as landmark land reform act in the country.However, ironically most of the State including Odisha has shown step motherly hood attitudes towards the OTFDs while recognizing Individual Forest Rights(IFR) in the State. While there is no issue at the community/village levels in the grounds, the State Govt. intentionally do not want to recognize the individual forest rights of the OTFDs creating unnecessary conflicts in the villages.
As per the FRA implementation status report produced by SLMC report up to 31st Oct 2015, while 617 OTFDs Families have been issued IFR titles under FRA in Sundargarh district (602) and Angul district(15), OTFD were not even allowed to file their IFR claims in the Gram Sabha by the SDLC and DLC in Kandhamal, Malkangiri, Rayagarda, Nabarangpur ,Nayagarh and Bargarh district. In other districts like Bolangir, Nuapada, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Keonjhar, Koraput, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Ganjam, Gajapati, Dhankanal, and Angul district.
OTFDs have filed their IFR claims at the Gram Sabha level. But most of their IFR claims have been shown either rejected by the Gram Sabha(91,310), rejected by SDLC(55,838), rejected by DLC(1505) or have been shown pending at FRC (1347) pending at Gram Sabha(21,267), pending at SDLC (3634) which are remanded back from its higher bodies. While in reality no gram sabha have rejected any IFR claim of OTFD, the SDLC officials who have dominated the FRA implementation process in the State bypassing Gram Sabha have arbitrarily show 91,310 IFR claims rejected by the Gram Sabha.
LokSammelaniwas organized to protest against the apathetic attitude of the Govt. officials towards the OTFDs. The LokSammelanihas submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister, Govt. of Odisha. The Important demandsof the LokSammelanibefore the Govt. of Odisha are as follows;
Stop rejecting IFR claims of Dalits including all OTFDs and ensure IFR rights under FRA;
- Produce detailed IFR claims status of OTFDs in different districts.
- Expedite the recognition of Community Rights over Community forest resources (CFR)
4.Identify all the forest and un-surveyed villages in different districts and convert them into revenue villages as per the recommendation of the concern Gram Sabha.
- Recognise the Habitat rights of the PVTGs.
6.Stop fixing any deadline for the implementation of FRA.
- Halt the VSS and “Ama Jungle Yojana” which is contradictory and in violation of FRA.
8.Issue GoO to ensure the forest rights of woman and their participation in the Gram Sabha, FRC, SDLC and DLC.
9.Abide the Decision of the Gram Sabha as final decision. Implement all the livelihood programmes and schemes in the villages as per the need and recommendation/approval of the Gram Sabha.